Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Reserve 2004

I'm leaving Chile(till later) and heading over to California to try a few more Zin's.   I'm starting to surprise myself with what I am finding with Zinfandel and also a bit disappointed that I wasted so many years with such a limited selection or narrow palate.  It shows what can happen to one's palate when staying with one type or varietal over a very long period of time without giving other varietals a chance.   It's a lot of fun trying new wines now, but just wish I didn't have to go to school all over again at my age.
The first of the Zin's I recently stocked up on is the Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley 2004 Reserve.
Deep dark fruit aromas with some cherry.  Lots of blackberry, cherry, a little plum and chocolate fills the mouth with a nice long and a bit peppery finish.
The 2004 vintage is 96% Zinfandel and 4% Petite Sirah. The PS contributed to the spicy finish on this full bodied, bold wine. Much more jammy than the Paso Robles Zins I recently tasted and more like those Zins I had difficulty handling years ago. Hey, you're never too old to learn.  Not that I am old??
Uncorked this wine with pork chops and found it fair to good with the pork.  Dessert though was a chocolate volcano cake covered with raspberries, whipped creme and Chambord Liqueur where this wine shined. Also saved a glass for later with some extra sharp NY cheddar cheese bites. Again, a great pairing and a great price.  I purchased locally for $18 and enjoyed what tasted like a much more expensive Zin. Will buy this wine again!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New In Boxed Wines

New Collection of Artisan Wines in a Break-Through 3L Premium Wine Cask Launched  by Underdog Wine Merchants

LIVERMORE, CA (March 23, 2010) A new collection of artisan wines in an innovative attractive new package was announced  by Adam Richardson, Director of International Winemaking for Underdog Wine Merchants. The international wine collection is being launched with six brands and ten items packaged in a new exciting premium 3L wine cask format, the Octavin Home Wine Bar ™..
Wine Glass 
"This is the first time a collection of super-premium, artisan wines, representing some of the world's best wine regions, has ever been offered in a premium wine cask format," notes Adam. "The wines are sourced from preeminent and emerging wine growing regions including Monterey County; California Central Coast; Marlborough, New Zealand; Spain and Hungary. I am very proud of these wines; each has been crafted by an artisan winemaker to be true to their varietal character, country of origin and unique terroir. Naturally, we start with the best grapes but then, depending on the wine, we will use oak barrel aging, or in the case of our 'racy' whites, barrel and temperature-controlled fermentation. You just do not see this kind of artisan approach to winemaking at this price point, and all of us at Underdog Wine Merchants are very pleased to be able to offer consumers distinctive wines at a very affordable price."

Each Octavin Home Wine Bar holds 20 five-ounce glasses and keeps the wine fresh for up to six weeks after opening, so it can be easily enjoyed in under a month in adult households with daily wine drinkers. "It truly delivers artisan wine, a glass at a time," says Richardson.

The wines in the new artisan collection are Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; Silver Birch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; Boho Vineyards California Old Vine Zinfandel; Pinot Evil Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio; Big House Red and White; and Seven, produced from seven Spanish red varietals. Wines are distributed nationally with a SRP of $22-24.

The first wine to be released in the new Octavin Home Wine Bar is Monthaven Winery Monterey County Central Coast Chardonnay. Named for its home in Monterey County, California, this wine benefits from one of the world's longest growing seasons, resulting in a "distinctive full-bodied wine with balanced acidity," says Monthaven Winery winemaker Jeff Yamamoto, who works closely with Adam Richardson. " Monthaven Chardonnay is made in California's largest small-lot winery," notes Jeff. "This allows us to keep grapes from different micro-climates and vineyard blocks separate. The wine is carefully crafted in small lots and then barrel-aged. Adam and I selected American Oak for our Monthaven Chardonnay to assure that the fruit flavors shine through, accented by balanced oak notes and agreeable tannins."

Octavin Home Wine Bar bridges the wine world's interests in value, environmental positives and creative packaging. "By choosing an Octavin Home Wine Bar instead of glass bottles, consumers reduce packaging waste by 92% and carbon emissions by 55%; and it offers great value by providing the equivalent of four bottles of wine for the price of three," says Richardson. "This allows us to invest in making great wines rather than traditional expensive packaging. By eliminating glass bottle expense, we reduce packaging and shipping cost, and then pass the savings along to customers. These are wines without compromise, the same wines that would go into a bottle, but with the stylish Octavin Home Wine Bar, we can deliver these wines at an amazing price and with sustainable business practices."

Roger Boulton, Stephen Sinclair Scott Professor of Enology and chemical Engineering, Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California recognizes the need for the wine industry to improve business practices in regard to sustainability. "One of the future challenges for the management of all wine businesses is the reduction of their carbon footprint. This number is made up of several contributions and a series of changes will need to be made probably requiring ongoing adaptation. There are questions of the ownership of these emissions - such as bottles and packaging - anything a wine company can do to reduce their carbon footprint will probably be viewed positively by consumers and the larger community. Any wine delivered to market that has resulted in one-third less carbon emissions is a significant and consequential improvement in business practices."

"We've been watching the industry as it adopts innovative packaging, e.g., Stelvin caps. Now, the logical progression is for the package itself used for everyday drinking. The Underdog Wine group has increasingly staked a claim on the premium 3L segment; the unique shape of Underdog's new package will further make their wines stand out from the crowd, "stated Eileen Fredrikson, Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

Underdog Wine Merchants are champions of "hidden treasure" or under-appreciated
wines-ones that are truly unique, of great value and the true "underdogs" of the wine world. For information about Underdog Wine Merchants, visit
For more information, visit

To access a high resolution image of the Octavin Home Wine Bar Collection please click here: Octavin Family Image

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere 2008

This is the third of the Carmenere wines I tasted this month.  As I stated in my previous two articles, Carmenere is one of the wines I've pushed aside in the past, but have placed on a list to re-examine in 2010.  The first two left me with mixed feelings about the wine.  The Arboleda 2006 was more full bodied with lots of  earth, green pepper and tobacco.  It lacked any fruit with the exception of some black current or some black raspberry in the mouth.  The Concha y Toro Marques de Concha Casa 2007 was much different with more fruit aromas and less earth and tobacco.  Although I would like to try the Arboleda with a thick grilled steak, the Marques de Concha Casa was more versatile and would do well with chicken, stews, burgers and pizza.
Tonight I uncorked another Carmenere from Concha y Toro, the Casillero del Diablo 2008 Reserve.  Again I found something much different than the previous two, maybe a bit in-between.
There was a little dark cherry and blueberry hidden under the aromas of  tobacco and chocolate. The mouth was offering the same with a little spice leading to a dry, but peppery finish.  I did enjoy this with some Muenster and Dubliner cheese.  The price was also right for this one, at $10 you can't go wrong.
The Marques de Concha Casa, at $20, was definitely the best of the three, although the Casillero del Diablo was a great buy. I'm still not sold on Carmenere.   In a few months I will try another three and hopefully three more before the year ends. It'll be fun!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2007

It's been a few years since I tasted Carmenere.  If I remember right, it was a take it or leave it, nothing special, too many other fine wines, don't shop for wine.  My last review confirmed that feeling, but in a very serious attempt to expand a lazy palate I purchased a few different labels to compare.
The first was disappointing. Not that the wine was god awful bad, but it was not was I expected from what I was reading about Carmenere. It lacked the dark fruit and the balance.
Tonight I opened a second choice, The Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha 2007.  This is what I expected. 
Concha y Toro,  the largest producer of wines from Latin America and one of the global leaders, is headquartered in Santiago, Chile.  Concha y Toro produces several different wine styles including a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes the Maule Valley. They also produce a barrel fermented Chardonnay and a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon named after the winery's founder, Don Melchor. The Carmemere comes from the historic Peumo vineyards situated above to north bank of the Rapel Valley's Cachapoal River.
The aromas of dark plums, red cherry and blueberry with a hint of tobacco and coffee is what I was reading about. Add a little spice with some vanilla on the palate and a  long smooth finish to make one excellent wine.
This Carmenere will pair equally well with steak, burgers or a pasta covered with a rich tomato sauce. It is also an excellent wine to just sip and enjoy while relaxing.  I cut up some extra sharp cheddar and enjoyed every bite and every sip.  My purchase price was $20 and well worth it.
My next Carmenere is also from Concha y Toro.  Just maybe I found what I was looking for.  Time and a few more Carmenere wines will tell!!!